Diskin: Internet technology makes terrorism more lethal

At security conference, Shin Bet head says Google Earth, the Internet, Apple's iPhone help terrorists obtain intelligence they could not before.

Yuval Diskin 311 (photo credit: Sivan Faraj )
Yuval Diskin 311
(photo credit: Sivan Faraj )
A terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction is more likely than ever before, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin said at a security conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.
Diskin, who has led the Shin Bet since 2005 and is rumored to be a candidate to head the Mossad, spoke at the first Israeli Homeland Security Conference organized by the Israel Export Institute.
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“The availability of advanced technology makes terrorism in the 21st century more global and cross-country,” Diskin said. “This is how, for example, terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad obtain weaponry from Iran and North Korea sent by air, ground and sea through a number of countries, including Yemen and Sudan, and an international smuggling network to the Gaza Strip.”
The main characteristic of terrorism today, Diskin said, was that “there are no longer psychological inhibitions against carrying out megaterror attacks – this is what makes the threat of terrorism in the 21st century so significant.”
The transformation of the world to a “global village” and particularly the Internet, Google Earth and various iPhone applications have made terrorism more lethal, he said.
“Information on how to manufacture weapons of mass destruction is more available today than before, as well as other advanced weaponry that used to be reserved for countries and is now in the hands of terrorist organizations,” he said.
Diskin said cyber-warfare was a key threat to Israel and that attacks could be carried out online that could cause great economic damage in addition to killing many people. He warned that al-Qaida terrorists used Internet chat rooms to recruit activists, to indoctrinate them and to pass on instructions on how to carry out attacks.
Nevertheless, Diskin said terrorism could be defeated, but it would require countries to pool their efforts.
“Countries would need to work together, share intelligence and technology and create the legal basis for their actions,” he said. “This is a goal that can be achieved.”
There was a “growing threat” to the aviation world from terrorists trying to smuggle explosives on passenger and cargo planes, as well as use shoulder-toair missiles that could be used to shoot down planes, Diskin said.
Referring to the bombs that were discovered on Friday in packages mailed from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago, Diskin said that the Shin Bet was not surprised by the reports that a Yemen-based al-Qaida cell was behind the attempted attacks.
During his speech to the conference, Diskin gave a short historical survey of Israel’s war on Palestinian terrorism dating back to the late 1990s. He said that 1997 was a turning point for the Shin Bet, when it began to invest heavily in technology, particularly information technology and signal intelligence such as the tracking of cellular phones.
The most dramatic leap in the war on terror, he said, occurred earlier this decade, when all of the Israeli intelligence and defense agencies decided to set aside their egos and begin to work together. This unprecedented level of interoperability led to the capture of more than 120 would-be suicide bombers who were on their way to targets in Israel, as well as the capture of hundreds of others who were involved in planning attacks, Diskin said.